“Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War
After an eight day hiatus the Blazers are back on their home court hosting the Southern Jaguars from the Southwestern Athletic Conference. A win over the Jaguars would make UAB 51-0 against the SWAC all-time and 5-0 against Southern.
I’m going to get a bit more statistical than usual for a moment in an effort to paint the picture of the season thus far before I dig into scouting the Jaguars.
At 5-5 the Blazers have been the poster program for erratic play. The obvious reason for the inconsistencies is the absence of Nick Norton. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but there’s a reason why UAB’s ability to maximize shot attempts on the floor is significantly lower than last season. The Blazers are ranked 10th from the bottom in offensive field goal attempt rate in the NCAA.
Nevertheless, I’m an optimist and I tend to look forward and build off the positive aspects of the season 10 games in.
As sub-optimal as UAB’s offense has been, their defense has been quite good in certain aspects. The Blazers have been among the best in college basketball at shutting down their opponents on the inside.
Per Haslametrics.com, UAB is ranked 21st in the country in defensive near-proximity percentage, allowing opponents to make good on only 48.3 percent of their attempts from close-up.
UAB also boasts one of the better overall defensive field goal percentages in the country. The team ranks 39th nationally in field goal percentage allowed, as opponents only makes good on about 38.8 percent of their total attempts from the floor.
I’m regurgitating all this info to say that despite what people may think of UAB’s perimeter defense, it’s been their overall defensive effort that has resulted in the Blazers being 5-5 rather than 3-7.
Shots will start falling for good players and UAB has a wealth of those. Defense wins games and you can bet your basketballs these kids aren’t going to regress in their effort.
Scouting the Jaguars
Projectionists have UAB winning this game somewhere between 13-20 points depending on where you look. All the things Southern does well offensively the Blazers excel at defensively. This game will be a great opportunity for UAB to sharpen their offensive sets and, most importantly, see some shots fall.
Southern is an older team ranking 12th nationally in experience per KenPom.com. Over the last five games they’ve used lineups consisting of all juniors and seniors.
Blazer fans will be happy to hear the Jaguars haven’t hit more than three 3-point shots in each of their last five games. Unlike Memphis where the Tigers hit two 3-pointers and still won, Southern does not feature any players in the same conversation of skill as far as interior play is concerned.
In Southern’s blowout loss at Baylor on Wednesday, the Jaguars had two players score 24 points each in a game that the team only scored 59.
Junior forward Jared Sam who is listed at 6-foot-9 and 210 lbs. was 8-of-10 on two point shots and hit 8-of-9 free throws. In a loss to Memphis last season he had 26 and 12 rebounds. Senior forward Sean Prudhomme was 3-of-7 from behind the arc and 7-of-10 on two points shots.
Jared Sam, along with 6-foot-1 senior point guard Tre’lun Banks, are the only two returning starters from last seasons NCAA tournament play-in game loss to Holy Cross.
3 Things To Watch For
- Dirk Williams – It’s been the tale of two halves of the start of the season for Dirk. In the first five games he averaged 13 points per game, and since he’s averaged 8 points. In 3 of the last 5 games he is a combined 0-of-11 from behind the arc. He’s going to get open looks against Southern and seeing some shots fall would surely do the senior some good going into the Texas game.
- Perimeter Defense – Memphis was just 2-of-12 from behind the arc last game, which is a vast defensive improvement for the Blazers. Stephen F. Austin was 4-of-16. In my opinion the magic number for UAB is six 3-pointers or less from the opposition. I used to say eight, but given our continued gelling of the offense the Blazer’s must be very stingy in their defense of the perimeter.
- Deion Lavender – It’s time for Lavender to be more selfish. He’s shown the ability to distribute the ball effectively, but if his teammates aren’t hitting shots he needs to start finding his own offense. Lavender was 0-of-4 from the floor against Memphis. I’d like to see more drives to the basket that should yield a trip to the free throw line if nothing else.